Fast Forward Interactive

A Step-By-Step Guide for a Successful Membership Drive [with 16 Proven Ideas and Tips to Retain Members]

Credit: Mariam Mkhitaryan, Marketing Content Specialist


Can’t think of new ideas for your next membership drive? We’ve got you covered.

Whether your organization is creating a positive impact or just a fun club, you only have to follow two principles to make it a success. One – bring in more people and Two – retain them.


If you’re looking for ways to find and retain more members, here’s a step-by-step guide for you.


Step 1: Make Smart Goals


Defining goals is like setting up new year’s resolutions: they should be measurable and attainable.


Most organizations start with unclear goals such as “drive new memberships” or “retain more members”. While they may seem doable, you don’t have a real way to measure their results.


The right approach here is to create SMART goals for your membership campaigns. Let’s take the following goal as an example:


“Gain 50 new memberships in Q1” – A SMART Goal


Specific = It has a specific number. (50 members)


Measurable = It is measurable. (by dividing achieved memberships by targeted

memberships, you can calculate the percentage of achieving a goal, i.e. 500 achieved memberships)


Attainable = It is attainable.


Relevant = It is relevant to your association.


Time-Bound = It is time-bound. (Q1)


Once you set your main goal, you can break them down into more manageable tasks to divide them among your teams.


Step 2: Set a Realistic Budget


Setting an unrealistic budget and exceeding it is one of the most common errors organizations make when driving membership campaigns. One way to avoid this is to analyze all the components when deciding on a budget which are:


Fixed cost (tools, subscriptions)

Variable cost (ads spend, sales commission, staff wages)


Next, calculate your member acquisition cost to set a budget based on your marketing activities. Simply put, a member acquisition cost is an amount you spend on marketing for acquiring new members.


You can calculate this cost from the last membership drive by dividing the cost of marketing by the number of new members i.e. Cost of marketing / number of new members = cost of acquisition


For example, if you gained 10 memberships the previous year with a marketing spending of $1,000, your cost of acquisition would be: 1,000/ 10 = $100

Now multiply this cost of acquisition by your goal (50 from the example above), you will get your budget for the upcoming campaign: 100 * 50 = $5000 (budget for the upcoming campaign)


If you don’t bring 50 members in with your $5,000, that means you have exceeded your budget. On the other hand, you have made a profit if you manage to bring in 50 members with less than $5,000.


It’s a great metric to evaluate your marketing efforts as well as spot spending that are cost-effective as well as effective.


Step 3: Drive New Members to Your Organization/ Association


The next step is to decide how you will use all available resources to  grow memberships.


When brainstorming membership campaign ideas, it is useful to consider the past successes of your organization. You can also study what is working well for similar associations.


In case you have run out of some great tactics, here’s a long list of the proven strategies that will help you grow your memberships in no time.


1. Events With Free Lunches

Ever heard of hosting free luncheon for bringing in new members? Well, it’s a proven tactic used by several associations for successful membership drives.

All you have to do is to ask your members to bring a non-member friend to the event to enjoy a free lunch. You can also offer them incentives like $100 in case their friend ends up being a member at the end of the event.

Make sure to give a presentation on what your association is about and the benefits of becoming your member.


2. Cycling Events


Arranging cyclic events or charity fun runs is one of the top membership drive ideas for clubs (especially health and fitness clubs).


Host a city-wide cycling event for maximum participation. Design a colorful registration form with information regarding your club and activities and offer them your membership by paying 10% extra for the event registration. (Make it equivalent to a 50% discount on the entire membership amount)


To make your events unique, you can try interesting  membership drive themes or slogans. Don’t forget to add member testimonials on the registration form for better engagement.


3. Phone/ Email Campaigns

Getting in touch with prospects over the phone is an old yet effective method of gaining customers.


You can use the same method to drive members to your association.

Simply make a list of all your prospective members and contact them one by one.


You can also send  membership invitation emails   stating your membership privileges such as reduced event fees or exclusive VIP events. Make sure to add the link to your registration page for them to click.


4. Limited Time Offers


This is a helpful method when you are unable to bring more members despite other efforts.


Time-limited discounts   shift a user’s perspective toward saving their money by creating an urgency to avail it.


By explaining how membership will improve their finances, you give potential members a valid reason to join your organization. However, don’t do it often as it will signal a low-value tactic to your prospects.


5. Business Networking Events

Business networking events are considered one of the best membership marketing ideas. In fact, according to CrossCheck  , building a professional network is a major reason why people join associations.


Depending on the type of your association and the region it covers (national or global), you can decide between an on-site event or a virtual one.


Host a short introductory speech introducing your association and mentioning your membership perks (including networking as a top one). You can also offer free tickets to your members to add them as a benefit of joining your association.


6. Annual Conferences

Having annual conferences not only brings your members together but also gives you a great platform to promote your association.


The best conferences extend at least two days, feature multiple agendas, distribute certificates to attendees, and have some fun activities. So make sure you have them all.

If your organisation extends nationally, choose a different city for the conference each time. This will allow maximum participation across the country and you will have more prospects to connect with.


Make sure you have contact fields on your registration form such as email address and contact numbers. You can also send an eBook to all your attendees giving them a brief on your membership benefits.


7. Business Spotlights

Most people are not aware of the benefits of business spotlights for gaining new members.

Business spotlights are programs that showcase the exceptional stories of businesses including how they got here and what are their next plans.


You can host a business spotlight  at any local business and invite your members (along with one non-member to these events).


8. Inviting Influencers to Speak


Considering the massive following of influencers, inviting them to speak at your events is a great way to attract new members.


They not only add educational value but also make for great networking sessions. You can ask influencers to add a post on their social media regarding their upcoming session – a great way to promote your association.


 To find influencers, use social media platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn or podcasts. You can also ask your members if they have influencers in their circle. The speaker can also be your member, which is a great way to highlight the expertise in your organisation.


9. Online Advertising

Online ads can help you drive more members than other methods since they can target members by understanding their journey and interests.


To run an online ad, choose a platform that has your target prospects. See how your members find your organisation online. For instance, do your prospects look for your types of memberships on search engines? Or do they join social media groups to find relevant companies?


If they use search engines, it’s wise to place search and video ads on Google   and YouTube. If you have more prospects on social media, then we recommend using Facebook or LinkedIn ads.


However, you mustn’t forget to set a budget for the digital ads, as they can quickly exhaust your finances.


10. Member Rewards for Involvement

Indeed, word of mouth is still a strong method to bring in more members. And who can drive referral programs better than your members?


Rewarding members for promoting your association ensures that they are constantly appreciated   so they don’t stop doing it.


For referral programs, host competitive friendly events where the person who gets the most memberships for your club is rewarded with a gift basket or a discount card.


11. Exchange Gifts

Unlike rewards (mentioned above), exchange gifts are available for both members and nonmembers. The idea is that you  offer a giveaway  in return for something else. For instance, you can offer a free resource in exchange for adding 5 email addresses of the family members on your website or tagging your friends on social media posts. Once you get their email addresses or social ids, you can then begin marketing your association and events to these people via email campaigns and online ads.


12. Social Platforms

Promoting organic posts on your social platforms is a cost-effective way to bring in new members.


Make sure you have an official page on the social media platforms where you have the most prospective members. Add a compelling introduction with the key benefits of becoming a member. If you’re out of membership benefits ideas,  read this article.


Add your logo, a group picture of your members (very useful in getting more likes and shares), and your upcoming events on your page.


Post your content regularly with relevant hashtags to grow organically. You can also create groups based on common interests and interact with the members regularly by creating shareable posts, helpful articles, and engaging in conversation.



13. Short-Term Membership Programs

If you are thinking, “how to attract new members to a club?” this is your answer!

Most prospects think twice before going for an expensive annual membership. Offering  short-term memberships  is what you need to do at this point to get them involved in your organisation.


Offer a 3-month membership plan to your prospective members with access to the facilities like a swimming pool, jogging track, and gymnasium. Some activities can be restricted and you can mention in your registration form that they are only available to annual members.


This way, they can try your club for three months and decide on buying annual memberships when satisfied or to take advantage of the additional activities.


14. Business Collaborations

Collaborating with a local business is an excellent way to spot new prospective members.


For example, if you have large meeting or event spaces, partner with another organisation to host events together. The event will have audiences from both sides, benefiting both sides.


Make sure you have combined agendas and overlapping topics to engage audiences from both sides. You can also create and cross-share content on social platforms.


15. Nonprofit Events Sponsor

Sponsoring a nonprofit is not only good for your membership drive but also offers an ideal volunteer opportunity.


Depending on your budget, you can sponsor a small fundraising event or a large kick-off event for capital campaigns  . It will help you gain more exposure as well as build a network with other sponsors and board members.


You can also set up a small stall where you can distribute brochures regarding your membership benefits.


16. Optimized Website

An optimised website is a key to successful memberships, especially if you have a virtual organisation.


An optimised website influences audiences both rationally and emotionally to convert them into members. It has well-written copies that tell what your association is, the story behind it, and your vision.


To optimise your website  , keep both search engines and audiences in consideration. Mention the top features of your membership on the homepage to attract incoming prospects.


Once optimised, you can use the homepage or membership page links in your emails, or newsletters to improve engagements on your website (ultimately leading to conversions).


17. Speed Networking Events

Virtual speed networking is the newest trend in the online world. If you are not using it for your membership drive, you are missing out on a great opportunity!


During a virtual speed networking event, you pair attendees with each other and let them connect virtually for short one-on-one video calls to engage faster and efficiently. This allows them to interact with more members in a short time.


To set it up, choose software that integrates and automates speed networking like Glue Up  . Once done, create an event and invite your member’s community as well as prospective members on the email subscription list, and social media.


At the beginning of the event, have a short introductory speech about your association and membership details (focus on benefits) and let your invitees connect through speed networking.


You can also create member rewards for bringing in new memberships.


Step 4: Retain Current Members


If you are dealing with memberships every year, you probably know that retaining members is more difficult than driving new memberships.


Simply put, retaining members is all about understanding your members’ needs and fulfilling them. However, it’s easier said than done. Sometimes, members quit despite your best efforts. In such instances, identifying the root cause and fixing it is the only way out.


In case you are exploring ways to retain members, you might be interested in the methods listed below. In addition, figuring out what might be causing members to lapse in your association can help you fix it more quickly. (also mentioned below)


The Common Reasons Why Members Lapse

There are several reasons why members lapse. According to the 2021 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, people leave associations because of six main reasons:


  • They don’t feel engaged with the organisation and other members
  • They don’t feel valued by the team
  • They cannot justify the membership costs with the ROI
  • Their employers stop paying for their memberships
  • They leave the field or the industry
  • They forget to renew their memberships


If you are facing member lapse, you might need to dig deeper to figure out the exact cause. As a whole, adopting the following strategies can increase your chances of membership retention.


Improve Onboarding With a More Holistic Approach

Just like new employees, your new members also await a warm welcome from your side. Therefore, a holistic onboarding  is the first great approach to retaining new members.


Facilitate your members with a warm welcome, and a smooth initiation with the right resources. This includes a personalised welcome email and the right login clicks and credentials.


Offer them a welcome kit with the first-month discounts on dine-outs, shopping, and spas to take their experience to the next level. You can also make groups based on shared interests and add your new members while onboarding.


Utilise Your Existing Members Suggestions to Enhance Your Services

Many members want to feel valued and heard. That being said, they want to feel like an active participant in your organisation. In such cases, having them involved with feedback, surveys, and open discussions is a great way to keep them around.


Ask them questions   like how is their membership going? What is it that they like to improve? What are the services they want to enhance or change? You can also take their suggestions for the upcoming events and conferences.


This will not only help you  engage and retain your members  but also in improving your association.


Choose the Right Membership Management Software

A membership management software is the lifeline of your association. It does not only impact you and your team but your members as well.

Whenever you choose membership management software, always look for an easy user interface. Select a platform that is easy for making payments and signing up for the events. Analytical dashboard, customisation, and prompt customer support are some other features you should consider when selecting a platform.